Bespoked UK 2019: Sven Pathfinder and Pathfinder Plus
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As part of our Bespoked UK coverage, here’s a look the latest incarnation of Sven Cycles’ Pathfinder. Built to a semi-custom spec from stainless steel, it’s designed with a spritely ride in mind and features generous 650B tyre clearances, making it a great option for both on- and off-road bikepacking in the UK and beyond. And for those in search of chunkier terrain, there’s its big-tyred sibling, the Pathfinder Plus…
Sven Cycles had a number of bikes on show at this year’s Bespoked UK, from a remarkable, tadpole-style trike built for a client with hip and balance problems, to a performance 20-inch-wheeled city bike with Shimano Di2 that separates in two for overseas and train travel. They also had two semi-custom bikes that will certainly pique the interest of bikepackers: the latest iteration of their Pathfinder and a prototype Pathfinder Plus, complete with 29 x 2.8″ tyres.
Based in the seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, Sven Cycles offer a number semi-custom bikes in their lineup, in addition to the fully custom work they take on. Tried and tested blueprints, they’re effectively distillations of their longstanding experiences, and a good starting point for their customers to work from. Semi-custom bikes are made one by one, to order. “The bikes are bespoke fit and we can make small changes to the frame design and can accommodate a range of fittings on the frame and forks. We will also paint a bike any colour the customer likes, within reason. The frame and fork is built in-house, as is painting, wheel building, and assembly. General delivery is six to eight weeks on semi-custom bikes,” says founder Darron Coppin, who builds bikes alongside master-of-design-and-fit, Andrew ‘Mog’ Mogford.
The decidedly radiant, stainless steel Pathfinder looks particularly well suited to UK riding, being the veritable all-rounder. Whilst I only had the chance to ride it briefly, it felt gloriously light and quick to steer. Sven has been building and honing their Pathfinders for five years now, and this latest version features revised geometry and tubing specification tweaks, including improved tyre clearance – up to 650B x 55mm. In some ways, they Pathfinder is a modern take on a classic drop-bar mountain bike, but designed to be light and compliant enough for fast rides on gravel paths and forest roads too.
The frame and fork come in at £2200, whilst the show bike cost around £4200, given its boutique Onyx hubs. Speaking of wheels, it also featured Rene Herse’s Juniper Ridge 48mm on and off-road knobbly rubber, which at first ride, seem to roll really well. Other build details include Salsa Cowchippers, Middleburn cranks, SRAM Force groupset, along with Thomson finishing kit and a Brooks C17.
As for tubing, it’s stainless steel all round, in the form of Reynolds 921, with Paragon dropouts. It’s taken a while to hone the recipe for the desired ride. Apparently the 921 stainless steel unicrown fork is a real undertaking and takes twice as long as a Reynolds 853 frame to build. “We have tubesets made for us with custom butting. Whilst it’s not the very lightest it’s very robust, and with a high chrome content it’s very corrosion resistant, and has a very nice ride quality. We don’t overpolish and remove the grain, we just give it a good clean and a light polish. It’ll look great in 20 years time,” says Darron. “Another great thing about working in stainless steel, is that you can add braze ons at any time, as they’re silver soldered on. We have had customers come down to the workshop and we can turn it around while they go for lunch!”
Recently returned from a dirt road tour of the US, including the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and portions of the Arizona Trail, Sven was also showing off a likely addition to the Pathfinder fold, in the form of the more muted, and heavier duty, Pathfinder Plus. Based off the Pathfinder Explorer, it sports considerably bigger clearances and modified tubing. The prototype on show was built for a friend and former part-time employee Oscar Jenkinson, and was bedecked in a mix of Oscar’s own bags, including a Nuffsacks framebag. Complete with Rohloff drivetrain, the show bike costs around £4000, or £1600 for the bespoke frame and fork. Tyres fitted were Teravail Coronado 2.8s, with plenty of space for UK mud; the frame takes 3″ tyres too. Tubing is Reynolds 853 DZB for the main triangle with a 725 rear. “We used a military brushing enamel on the frame and forks, we spray it, but it’s very easy to touch up with a brush when it gets knocks from proper use!” say Sven.
Elsewhere, there’s an eccentric bottom bracket for setting chain tension on the Rohloff. Given the demands of his trip, Oscar outfitted his bike with an SP dynamo hub, built around Scraper rims, as well as a set of comfy Jones H-Loop bars, with stopping power by Hope. Expect it to join the semi-custom lineup soon, now that it’s been stripped, checked over, and given the green light.